by Anita Shreve

This intriguing novel explores the aftermath of a tragic plane crash from the point of view of the pilot’s wife. We never really know anyone, but Kathryn Lyons really didn’t know her husband, Jack. This is not a dramatic book and it’s not as formally interesting as the author’s Testimony, but it’s certainly well executed.

(I found this at Big Chicken Barn Books on the way to Hypertext 16. It sure is a big chicken barn!)

by Dorothy L. Sayers

Though it is a complex golden-age mystery that features Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey, this is still not one of Dorothy Sayers’ best efforts. Early Sayers relied on cardboard for her minor characters and that shows prominently here. Jews are particularly troublesome for Sayers, who couldn’t stay away even if her Jewish characters always give her trouble. The two gigolos, the floozie and the the conductor who are at the center of this mystery are purely stock. She spends a lot of work on timetables and misleading clues, and not nearly enough work letting the people be people.

It’s too bad. By the time she got where she was going – tentatively in Nine Tailors and then splendidly in Gaudy Night and Busman’s Honeymoon, she was nearly finished with mysteries.

by Douglas Kennedy

An intriguing story of being down and out in the Paris of outsiders. Harry Ricks is a mess. His marriage has collapsed, the student he was sleeping with has killed herself, his dean (who was sleeping with his wife) has fired him after making sure that the press knows every sordid detail. His daughter doesn’t want to talk to him, and Harry can’t entirely blame her. He takes off for Paris with his last $4000 in order to write a novel. He gets sick. People are horrid. The novel goes nowhere.

Then Harry meets a woman who lives in the nearby 5e arrondissement, and things go seriously wrong.

Sep 16 20 2016

Wacky Wiki

I think we’ve got to start a discussion of whether Wikipedia is serving as a recruiting ground for anti-Semitic and racist extremists emboldened by the Trump campaign. We’re seeing ongoing efforts, for example, to pretend that Pepe The Frog is just a cute cartoon – just like those guys in white hoods are just having fun. We‘re also seeing a concerted effort to pretend that Gamergate harassers have nothing to do with Gamergate itself, that they’re just outside agitators.

I suspect all this is meant not to change the encyclopedia but to advertise the Reddit and *chan forums where the real anti-Semitic and racist bilge gets peddled. An earlier tactic was to deny that Gamergate’s rape threats were really rape threats, and to argue ad nauseam that the victims were simply over-reacting sissie girls. And blood was probably coming out of them.

Wikipedia itself thinks that this embrace of racism and sexual harassment is just fine, since it boosts the number of “highly engaged editors” and increases site traffic.

Katherine Clark (D-MA5) has some legislative proposals. They’re not nearly enough, but it’s a start.

by John Golding

During the chaos that followed hard upon the Brexit referendum, I realized that I know next to nothing about the modern Labour Party, how it works and how it is connected to he party of Victorian radicalism. I asked Twitter for a modern history of Labour and got this – a fascinating book, though not at all the book I was looking for. Golding was a combatant in the transition that led Labour out of the swamps that gave Britain a generation of Thatcher, a pro-union MP who was bitterly opposed to old Labour’s socialist programme.

One difficulty here is that Golding assumes the reader knows how everything works and who everyone was – not only the leading politicians but also the insiders who run the party. That’s a high standard for a first encounter with a foreign system. Golding loves acronyms too, and again assumes that the reader knows which committees do which things and wield which powers in fact as we as theory. I did enjoy learning about Annie’s Bar, a bar near an ancient inscription that read Anno Domini that for years served as a neutral ground where members of parliament and reporters could talk off the record.

by Richard Davenport-Hines and Adam Sisman, eds.

A strong collection of fascinating and very readable letters by a prominent postwar historian. Trevor-Roper played academic politics for keeps and liked a good bit of gossip as much as the next fellow. He explains, for example, that our understanding of Cretan civilization stems from the accident of Sir Arthur Evans having been discovered on an park bench in Oxford in a compromising position with an attractive boy. The letters that surround Trevor-Roper’s endorsement of the spurious Hitler Diaries, and his prompt recognition that he was wrong, are particularly evocative.

In a surprising development, I have been informed by Wikipedia’s oversight team that they no longer object to one of Gamergate’s favorite harassment tactics: suggesting (without evidence) that reports of sexual harassment has been faked, that police reports are fraudulent or non-existent, and that victims may therefore have committed fraud and perjury when reporting harassment. No source is required, for example, to insert “allegedly” against any complaint that victims have made or will make in the future. However widely reported the harassment may have been, Gamergate editors are free to suggest it’s just a silly or hysterically woman carrying on.

This new policy encourages “gas lighting” and discourages any attempt to report harassment; indeed, it magnifies the risk of objecting to Wikipedia harassment. As you would expect, the Gamergate boards are delighted, and even those Gamergaters who dislike harassment tactics now admit that they have been singularly effective.

Wikipedia’s oversight team did not respond to a request for comment.

by Adrian Goldsworthy

An entertaining but scholarly reconstruction of life in the British infantry in the final years of the Napoleonic wars, commencing with the soldiers who are quartered near the town of Meryton, which you will recalls is situated at the edge of Pride and Prejudice. Indeed, Wickham makes an appearance, which (as you would expect) causes no end of trouble to all in the vicinity. Colonel Fitzwilliam means well and works hard, but again is out of his depth. So, for that matter, is Arthur Wellesley, a moderately obscure general who, for a few precious days, has an army of his own. It’s an opportunity.

Saturday morning, I saw a clever Twitter posting cross my “politics” timeline. I tweeted it to my followers, so they’d see the image.

Actual Doonesbury cartoon from 1999.

Doonesbury Truthers

It seems to have been the right thing at the right time, as it’s been liked and retweeted thousands and thousands of times.

What really surprised me, though, we the brigade of right-wing Doonesbury Truthers who descended on my to prove that this was obviously a forgery, concocted by evil liberals. The wrong panel is signed! The colors are wrong! The web site’s been hacked! All the web sites have been hacked! Before I blocked them, I was having to explain to these folks (some of whom, to be fair, probably live outside Moscow in their mother’s basement and so don’t remember reading the comics in 1999) that millions and millions of people know these aren’t forgeries because they remember reading newspapers.

I pointed to the Amazon listing for the collected Doonesbury; they didn’t believe it. I argued that they could go down to their public library and read the newspaper themselves, forgetting that these people were likely living somewhere in Eastern Europe where American newspaper archives are a little bit less accessible than in, say, Peoria.

Still, my guess is that they weren’t all Russian, which means we have a lot of wingnuts who are so eager to find the next Dan Rather that they won’t even believe that stuff they can see in their bookstore actually exists.

by Megan Abbott

Megan Abbot’s Dare Me is a mystery about frightening young female athletes who have no fear of adults, and don’t even think much about them. You Will Know Me turns this around: it’s a mystery about the parents of acrobats – especially of one girl who, in a few years, may have a shot at the Olympics. All the parents love their kids fiercely, and all work hard not to neglect their other children despite the long hours and financial requirements that the sport demands. Though the parents become focused on and consumed by the demands of the sport, they cannot fathom the concentration, the dedication, the passion required to perform these acrobatics. The love the kids, but they cannot imagine who they have become.

Wikipedia has read me out of meeting because I restored the following passage that an anonymous troll had blanked in Wikipedia’s article about an Alt-Right chat board. These Internet sites became a focus of international attention last July, after Donald Trump tweeted an image of Hilary Clinton, a Star of David, and a sea of dollar bills that he had seen on a white-supremacist board. The passage I restored read as follows:

Anti-Semitism and White Nationalism

In July of 2016, US presidential candidate [[Donald Trump]] tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton with a background of money and a six pointed star, seen by some as resembling the Star of David containing the message "Most corrupt candidate ever". The image had originally been posted to 8chan's /pol/ board. The New York Times called 8chan a "website for the 'alt right,' an internet-based movement associated with white nationalism." [1] [2]

Scrubbing even this timid and tentative report from Wikipedia is Orwellian.

I no longer support the project to which I have given so much time, but I do occasionally glance at selected pages for two reasons. The first is safety. For example, one of my former Wikipedia opponents was recently detained and held without bail. (He’s out now, and on Twitter he’s talking about the “Jewish overlords” who run Broadway. Great.)

The second reason is to assist people seeking legislative and regulatory solutions to the menace that Wikipedia has become. A solution must be found for Wikipedia’s promotion of harassment – especially of women and Jews – and for its encouragement of extortion.

Still, as I pass through those dusty corridors, it seems churlish to simply ignore typos, vandalism, and other rubbish that can easily be fixed. They don’t want me to edit Gamergate; apparently, that extends to the entirety of the alt-right takeover of the Republican Party and, if they have their way, our country.

Last month, I asked for help finding a site that could answer the question, “What do normal people call this thing in my front yard that I call Tall Pricklyweed?”

A biologist writes to say that there’s a technical term that biologists use to refer to these plants I dismiss as weeds, and that term is ‘wildflower.’”

And, second, the best place to get help identifying them is iNaturalist.

by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger, eds.

A stack of modern Sherlock Holmes stories, ranging widely from tribute and emulation to some striking reinterpretations. Critic Michael Dirda dips his toe in fiction, for example, in a striking literary luncheon where we learn that Arthur Conan Doyle was actually The Strand’s house name, and all his works were farmed out to other hands. And that’s not all…

by Megan Abbott

This tensely-plotted mystery about high school cheerleaders is a study in the ferocity of young women. Where You Will Know Me, a mystery about serious acrobats who are opaque to their parents, is chiefly about grownups, Dare Me is about girls Here, parents are remote logistical worries whom we seldom see and who are scarcely worth a passing thought. As for boys, well, they might be fun to play with for a night or so, but these girls deeply don’t care.

The narrator, Addy, is a fascinating choice: she’s is and has always been the lieutenant of the top girl and squad captain, the enforcer. Addy is always thinking about (and fearing) Beth: Addy doesn’t really like hurting people, it just goes with the job and in any case Beth cannot be resisted. Or, Addy can’t resist her. On rare occasions, though, as when the new Coach is pondering who will be the star flyer in some new stunt, Addy lets a small, nine-year old voice in her head whine “Me! Me! Let it be me this once!”